Front Row: Public weighs in on two proposals in Greenville’s West End

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The McClaren rendering by Johnston Design Group

The second consecutive City of Greenville Design Review Board Urban Panel public hearing to attract public attention and comment ran slightly more than two hours on March 7, an hour shorter than February’s meeting during which the proposed renovations to the Wyche Pavilion were discussed.

The majority of the March meeting was spent evaluating the proposals for two neighboring projects in the West End – the nine-story mixed-use development at Rhett and Wardlaw streets called The McClaren, and the Merrill Gardens senior living development at Academy and Wardlaw streets.

Merrill Gardens rendering by Urbal Architecture

Both garnered conflicting opinions from the five panelists, but both applications for certificates of appropriateness received approval with conditions.

The McClaren

The 244-apartment and retail development proposed at the site of the former Ballentine Equipment warehouse and three adjoining properties extending to Academy Street was previously presented to the DRB in January for informal advice and comment.

Because the scope of the project involves demolition of the Ballentine warehouse and moving the former McClaren Medical Shelter building approximately 70 feet, the developer and architect have submitted multiple applications for certificates of appropriateness pertaining to each particular aspect.

rendering by Johnston Design Group

On the official docket March 7 was the demolition of the Ballentine warehouse in order to allow for the planned public plaza at the front of the property and informal review requesting advice on the proposed plans to relocate the McClaren Medical Shelter structure closer to Academy as well as the overall site plan.

The warehouse demolition, for which city planning staff recommended a denial, received board approval in a four to one vote, with panelist Robert Benedict, dissenting based on the building’s location in the designated Warehouse District (2008 Downtown Greenville Master Plan) and inclusion in the Central Business District Reviewable Structures list that names buildings of a particular historic nature. Neither staff nor the applicant provided information on the historic nature of the building, though it was approximated to have been built in the late 1940’s.

The plan to preserve the McClaren Medical Shelter building and move it to a prominent corner on Academy Street is the result of “half a dozen” design workshops with local residents since January, said Scott Johnston of Johnston Design Group, architect on the project.

The panel was generally in favor of the proposed plan, with the recommendation that consideration be given to adding more distance between it and the new nine-story structure. Johnston requested that the panel grant approval of the relocation only after the full site development permit has been issued.

Merrill Gardens at Greenville

Up next for approval was the design of a five-story, 138-unit senior living development by Merrill Gardens on the triangular-shaped property bordered by Academy, Wardlaw, and Payne streets.

Merrill Gardens rendering by Urbal Architecture

Because of the challenging shape of the property, the building will sit closely to the Academy Street sidewalk with a pedestrian entrance fronting Academy. The parking, as planned at the corner of Academy and Wardlaw streets, will be visible from Academy.

Applicant Chad Lorentz of Urbal Architecture, said the goal is to provide the senior residents as much walkable access to the Kroc Center, Fluor Field, and Main Street as possible. The plan also includes engaging a local artist to do art along Academy Street side of the building.

During the public portion of the hearing, four nearby residents spoke during the time allotted to voice opinions in opposition, though the concerns raised weren’t necessarily in opposition to the project in totality, but rather individual aspects.

The panel unanimously voted to approve the application for the certificate of appropriateness, with the conditions that the applicant resolve a conflict with a neighboring townhome developer regarding Payne Street right of way and that a barrier be used to at least partially conceal the parking lot.

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